Microbiologist pins hope on biotech applications for farmers

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Microbiologist Dr. Rene Sumaoang believes there is wealth of applicable biotechnology that farmers can apply in agricultural and livestock production but the limited access to such technology and lack of adequate support are hindering the modernization of farm practices.

Dr. Sumaoang, who gave insights on the use of enzymes and beneficial microorganism in agricultural production before farmer members of the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF), said the country’s agricultural sector should have embraced different farming technologies long ago.

Dr. Sumaoang said organic farming would be a lot faster and practical if the right science was applied.

The KDF hosted Sumaoang’s seminar in a bid to familiarize farmers with better technologies on organic farming and ways to utilize organic waste materials for practical application to increase crop yield and livestock production.

KDF trustee Sylvia Ordonez said the applications revolutionize production time and lessen the impact of agricultural and livestock production on the environment.

She added that environment-friendly agricultural practices and technologies are welcome developments in a country that is adversely affected by climate change.

Applications in crop cultivation

Dr. Sumaoang said livestock owners and farmers can create their own organic fertilizer through the use of enzymes that are applied on animal manure. Dr. Sumaoang said that poultry and livestock waste could be treated with an enzyme (biosec). He added that the bio-reaction would heat up the material resulting into a dry mixture that could be used as soil conditioner.

Dr. Sumaoang, a microbiologist of the Novatech Group of Companies, said biosec is a combination of live but immobilized beneficial microorganisms and digestive enzymes that once applied, the beneficial microorganisms multiply very rapidly, inhibiting the growth of disease-causing organisms like E. coli and salmonella.

He told KDF farmers that the end result will give farmers an alternative source of soil enhancer. He added that the mixture will also prove to be beneficial as the soil will be reintroduced with microorganisms that have been reduced in the soil with the use of inorganic fertilizers.

Farmers were advised not to shift drastically into the use of organic fertilizer. Dr. Sumaoang said that it would be better to introduce the use of organic fertilizer gradually and by percentage application.

“Farmers could start by applying 50 percent organic fertilizer and 50 percent commercial fertilizer before shifting to 100 percent of organic fertilizer use,” Sumaoang added.

The use of enzymes and beneficial microorganism also speed up conventional composting methods and could be applied easily all year round. Processed animal manure is often used in vegetable gardens and as an effective soil conditioner.

Organic livestock feeds

Sumaoang also encouraged farmers to go into fermented feed production for the animals. He added that enzymes could be added to finely chopped corn husks, cobs and corn stalks which would then be turned into silage.

Corn silage is fermented, high-moisture stored fodder which can be fed to cattle, sheep and cud-chewing animals. And since fresh grass is a problem during the dry season for cattle and carabao, silage can help farmers hurdle the problem of the need for regular animal feed.

Central Luzon’s heavy demand for goat meat could also be addressed with the use of silage from corn. Dr. Sumaoang said that farmers usually raise only one or two heads because they have a problem of what to feed goats during seasons when there is no available fresh grass. The rainy season, when goats are prone to diarrhea, also hinders wide scale goat production. Dr. Sumaoang said that corn silage can address these problems.

Corn can provide a steady stream of feed supply especially in Luzon where corn production is high. The Department of Agriculture (DA) estimates the corn production for 2017 to hit 8.1-million metric tons (MT).

The DA, the Bureau of Plant Industry and the DA-Biotechnology Program Office had declared the country as corn self-sufficient since 2012. The National Corn Competitiveness Board reported that “biotech corn has contributed to feedstock-supply security and helped in food self-sufficiency.”

The DA had also been pushing for the use of corn cob ash as an affordable alternative to commercial fertilizer.

DA’s Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) funded a research done by experts at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) found out that corn cobs as good alternative sources of potassium fertilizer.

The use of enzymes and beneficial microorganism can also boost the potential of organic fertilizer made from corn waste as the nutrients are easily released with the use of simple biological process.

For its part, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) had been promoting the commercialization of corn silage for dairy buffaloes.

The DOST said that corn silage is a good source of energy and protein as it also provides high soluble carbohydrates.

Helping the environment

Dr. Sumaoang added that enzymes and beneficial microorganism added to carbonized rice hull (CRH) can reduce the emission of ammonia and sulfide gases when the CRH is used as litter for animal waste in poultry farms. He added that beneficial microbes inhibit the proliferation of deadly microbes like E. coli, salmonella among others.

The emission of ammonia and sulfide gases both have impacts on health and the environment. Turning animal manure into fertilizer will greatly reduce the latter’s impact on the environment and the health of farm animals and farmers. Also, emissions of nitrous oxides from nitrogen based fertilizers will also be reduced if there is a shift to organic fertilizer use.

The International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a partnership of 15 research centers around the world, said that one-third of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions is from agriculture. The use and manufacturing of inorganic fertilizers contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture also come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production.

Dr. Sumaoang said that agricultural wastes like corn stalks and hay from palay could be turned into fertilizer or silage. Most farmer’s burn palay hay and dead corn stalks unwittingly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is just a matter of teaching farmers of the right technologies to use,” Dr. Sumaoang said, adding that technology can greatly help farmers and at the same time help save the environment.


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